Saturday, May 20, 2023

Adventuregame Comics #1: Leviathan


Jason Shiga is one of my favorite comics creators, and he has consistently pushed the boundaries of comics, puzzles, and visual deign. He frequently incorporates math and science aspects into his work as well, giving it a very unique dimension. He has created books on a variety of topics, from the choose-your-own-path adventure Meanwhile, to the action-librarian yarn Bookhunter, to the modern romance Empire State, to the definitely adult supernatural escapade Demon. In his most recent publication, Leviathan, he returns to the territory of choose-your-own-path books.

Here, he follows the quest of a young, medieval villager in a quest to find and defeat a giant sea creature. This trail leads to various places, including home, a tavern, and a library, in order gather information and clues about the beast. Your choices dictate the story's path, as panels lead to various page numbers for you to trace the trajectory of the tale. Choose poorly, and you may end up kicked out on your ear, lost at sea, or worse. Pay attention, and you may be shocked by what is revealed. 

These two early pages from the book give a flavor of how it works.
This book is aimed at a younger audience than Shiga's past works, middle school-aged readers, but I think it is enjoyable for older ones as well. It is intriguing and fun and invites lots of re-reading and engagement. With some time and effort, I managed to successfully navigate this narrative, a feat I never have managed to do with Meanwhile, which only has one "happy ending" out of about 4,000 possible ones. So, it's mildly difficult, not diabolical like Meanwhile, a happy challenge for fantasy or adventure-minded readers.

All of the reviews I have read of this book have been glowing. In a starred review, Publishers Weekly noted that its "clever dialogue and stout character design impart good humor." Sean Kleefeld wrote, "It's an excellent use of the comic medium and far improves upon the reading experience relative to any other CYOA-style books I've seen." Kirkus Reviews called it "a clever story requiring investigation, diligence, and the ability to think outside the box."

Leviathan was published by Amulet Books, and they have more information about it here. As you may have guessed from the #1 in the title, this book is the first in a series. Book #2, The Beyond, is due to be published in August. For more insight into Book #1, you can read this interview with the author.

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